For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
In last Sunday’s sermon we meditated on Hebrews 4:12-13. I noted that the phrase, “Word of God,” has at least three meanings in the NT. It can refer to Jesus himself, to the preaching of the gospel, and to the inscripturated or written word. I also noted that in Hebrews 4:12 I think the Word of God refers primarily to Scripture (especially given the context of reflection on Psalm 95:7-11 in Hebrews chapters 3-4). In Hebrews 4:12, the inspired author uses four terms to describe the Word of God:
1. The Word of God is quick [living; Greek participle zon; like the name Zoe, meaning “life”]. For the use of “quick” compare the traditional phrasing of the Apostles’ Creed which says Jesus will return to judge “the quick and the dead” (i.e., the living and the dead).
There are many who would like for the Bible to be dead. They would like to officiate at its funeral. There are those who would like to place the Bible behind velvet ropes in a museum, like some religious artifact, telling the curious, “People actually used to read this old book and to follow its precepts.” There are some who want to treat the Bible as a literary treasure to be perhaps admired and studied but not taken seriously spiritually. Like the Prodigal Son they would like to take some cultural inheritance from the Bible while they run off to some far country to indulge in riotous living.
But the inspired author reminds us here that his Word is alive, and so is the preaching that thunders from it. It is a living Word, because it proclaims a living Christ and a living hope in the gospel.
2. The Word of God is powerful [the Greek word is energes, root for the English word “energy” and “energetic”; some modern translations render the Greek term as “active” or “effective”]. The opposite of this would be weak, limp, ineffective. Some have slandered the character of the Word of God, but the inspired writer is standing up as a witness to give testimony to the Word of God’s power to change men’s hearts and lives, to shape them into conformity to Christ, and to preserve them faithful unto the end.
3. The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. The comparative adjective “sharper” here comes from the Greek word tomos. It is also the root for the English word “atom.” An atom is the basic building block that cannot be cut or split without creating a great explosion of energy (i.e., It is a-tomos]. The Word of God is sharp; it is cutting. It has the ability to cut that which seems un-cut-able, to split that which seems un-split-able.
It is sharper than a two-edged (literally a double-mouthed) sword. This was the weapon of the Roman soldiers. The Word of God is like a finely honed weapon, like a well sharpened knife, that cuts to the heart spiritually speaking. It cuts away pretense from authenticity, the phony from the real. It separates the meat from the bones, the joint from the marrow. It is like a surgical scalpel in the hand of the Great Physician.
The Word of God cuts to the heart of the matter. It calls us to die to ourselves and to live for Christ. It calls us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily, and to follow him.
4. The Word of God is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The noun for “discerner” here is the Greek word kritikos, an adjective meaning “able to judge,” the root for the English word “critic.”
A critic is not merely someone who is critical, or who simply gives criticism to tear down. But a critic is one who has the ability or expertise to pass an informed judgment or to give an accurate evaluation. We need more than our own subjective judgments about what is right and wrong, noble or ignoble, praiseworthy or shameful, because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
We need the authority of the Word of God in order to discern the appropriateness or inappropriateness of our own subjective experiences and to tell us what is godly and what is ungodly.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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